Memo for Bosses: 101 Ways to Prevent your Office from Hating You

Updated: June 20, 2010

Thankfully, there's reason to hope. In fact, there's 101 reasons. And for those of you who are the haters rather than the hated, feel free to suggest these tips to your boss. Better yet, just send him a link and we'll tell him for you...


1. Make your employees come in on their days off even when you know there is no real work to be done.
2. Call them when they are on vacation, not unless the office has burned down, in which case the call is moot anyway.
3. Be biased, play favorites or show partisanship when dealing with your subordinates.
4. Hog your employees' limelight, or more specifically, take credit for ideas that are not yours.
5. Monitor every aspect of your employees' work. Peering over their shoulders every few minutes, or worse, hooking up hidden nanny cameras to spy on them in your absence is as good as wearing a sandwich board saying "Hate me, I deserve it". Remember, just as a watched pot never boils, an over-supervised employee's creativity and productivity are stifled.
6. Harass your employees, sexually or otherwise. Improper touching and patting (don't ever do what Chandler's boss does on Friends), especially with members of the opposite sex, is a definite no-no.
7. Get involved in a personal relationship with an employee of the opposite (or same) sex. The other employees will hate you both while the relationship is on, and your partner will hate you once it's over.
8. Exaggerate or overstate your accomplishments, spectacular though they may be.
9. Lose your temper while taking your employees to task or at the first scent of a problem.
10. Let sycophants rule your decisions. Those who fawn over you are not the best people hang around with. Their praise tends to go to your head, and other employees suffer as a result.
11. Put down those who work for you in front of their peers, or for that matter, before superiors and subordinates too.
12. Complain about or discuss shortcomings of some employees with others. The office grapevine will come back to strangle you if you do so.
13. Crow over or dwell too long on your employees' failures.
14. Interfere in the way they get their jobs done, as long as they get it done. Establish boundaries and guidelines, but don't chart out every single step of the process.
15. Follow the "It's either my way or no way at all" rule.
16. Nitpick or disparage too much. Encourage open and creative thinking; you never know when your employees may come up with a gem of an idea.
17. Be bitter when employees resign for personal reasons. Be supportive and let them go with good grace.
18. Be a slave driver and wield the whip over your employees. The application of force may have a profound effect on momentum in the scientific world, but it does not do anything to boost employee productivity or morale.
19. Make them work on holidays without providing advance notice and checking if it's ok with them.
20. Throw in that extra bit of work just when they are getting ready to leave for the day.
21. Monitor what your employees do during their breaks or lunch hours.
22. Give them work that will stretch into and eat up their lunch breaks, not unless it's mission critical.
23. Call them at home for every trifling problem at the office. Private time and space should be respected.
24. Deny them vacation time. Don't be the boss who asks a genie who's just granted two of his workers spectacular vacations on beach-lined islands, to bring them back by lunch time, because there's work to be done. Remember, rejuvenated employees work better and are more productive.
25. Be snobbish or stuck-up just because you are the boss.
26. Establish unreasonable deadlines and targets that cannot possibly be met unless the employee spends all his time at the office.
27. Be miserly and count every penny in all the operations of the company.
28. Be the wet blanket on the office camaraderie. Raining on their parade just because you feel they're having too much of a good time will not win you brownie points with your employees.
29. Take offense if you find out you're the butt of the latest office joke doing the rounds.
30. Look down on your subordinates because they come from a culture alien to yours. Globalization has made the world a much smaller place, and it's near impossible to have only natives of your country working for you.
31. Turn down your nose, discriminate against, or make fun of customs and traditions of people from other religions and cultures.
32. Feel threatened by good performances from your employees and stifle their growth when the fear that they may end up with your job looms large.
33. Induce fear in your employees. Fear is a great dampener of creativity.
34. Make them tip-toe around the office when you're in and goof up when you're not. It's not wise to be the cat that the mice wait for to leave before they play.
35. Renege on promises made, like telling them the company will foot a relocation bill and then going back on your word. Or promising unlimited time off for an employee with a sick child and then firing him/her when he/she returns.
36. Practice deceitful measures. Getting them to work on a temporary basis with the promise of future permanency, but terminating the employee once your ends are achieved is definitely not a good idea.
37. Contradict yourself. Telling your employees to take more initiative and then telling them not to overstep the limits sends out mixed signals.
38. Cut down salaries and perks and expect to hear no grumbles and protests. If the company is going through a financial crisis and needs to tighten its purse strings, explain the situation to your employees and detail the reasons why drastic decisions have to be made.
39. Find loopholes in contracts to layoff employees, or use the incompletion of a particularly impossible task as a reason to fire them. Be upfront in all your dealings, and tell them that the situation demands a downsizing of human resources.
40. Fire employees over the phone, or worse, through a text message.
41. Ask for personal favors, especially when you know your employees are in no position to refuse.
42. Rifle through your employees' personal desks or snoop around their workspaces.
43. Misuse your company's expense account for personal reasons. If you argue that your employees will never find out, a word of warning; the office grapevine extends its tentacles to places and events you would never dream of.
44. Treat your employees like machines or robots who can be ordered around at your bidding. "Do as I say or else…" does not pay!
45. Give them only pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and expect them to present you with the complete picture. Provide them with all the tools required before you set them a task.
46. Tell them only what's necessary. Give them all the details and some more before a new project or task is begun. Superior work is the resultant product when all the relevant data is at hand.
47. Flare up or drop the axe each time someone makes a mistake. Look at mistakes as part of the learning process.
48. Insult your employees by addressing their personal attributes, like the way look, the color of their skin, or their weight.
49. Criticize personal preferences or tendencies such as dress sense, sexual orientation, alcohol usage, and relationships, as long as it doesn't affect their work.
50. Cut your employees mid-sentence. Show that you respect their opinions too.
51. Point fingers before being aware of all the facts. Blaming one person for another's errors based on hearsay and rumors will not win you an employee fan following.
52. Foster animosity between your employees by pitting them against each other.
53. Expect employees filling in for colleagues to produce the same quality of work that the regular guys produce. Not everyone can be jacks of all trades with equal élan.
54. Force your subordinates to compromise on their principles. You may not be averse to using the casting couch (or its equivalent in the office) to win favors, but asking an employee (a female one, at least) to do the same will bring you down a few pegs on the respect scale.
55. Try to please everyone. That's like taking the sure route to disaster and chaos.
56. Be a doormat. Letting your employees walk over you will only create scorn and have them laughing at you behind your back.
57. Accept substandard work. Your employees will respect you all the more for your unwillingness to compromise on the quality of work.


58. Be a part of, not above, the entire work team, but set limits to prevent undue familiarity.
59. Respect your employees as human beings; don't look at them as people at your beck and call.
60. Appreciate work that is well done.
61. Reward hard work, even if the outcome is not totally satisfactory. If an employee has put his heart and soul into a project that goes wrong due to reasons beyond his control, award the next such project to the same person. Hard workers are hard to find these days, and you also earn goodwill by showing that you don't assign blame unfairly.
62. Motivate employees who are usually good workers but down in morale for the present. Don't taunt them with poor performances and send them deeper into depression.
63. Divide work and tasks fairly.
64. Provide your employees with clean and comfortable work areas.
65. Compensate them well, financially and otherwise. The perks of a job are sometimes the deciding factor between a valuable employee staying and resigning.
66. Make overtime and vacation work worth the while of your employees; pay them well so they don't feel shortchanged.
67. Recognize that each of your employees is different, and do not compare one with the other, especially to put down a particular employee.
68. Admit your mistakes, you're only human.
69. Be magnanimous when your employees goof up, after all, they're only human.
70. Be straightforward; tell your employees upfront what's wrong with their work instead of beating about the bush and telling them to figure it out themselves.
71. Be accessible, don't give your employees the feeling that you are the big bad ogre waiting to gobble them up for lunch if they so much as step into your office.
72. Push your employees to achieve their potential, but know when enough is enough; you don't want them falling off the cliff.
73. Be realistic in your expectations.
74. Take pride in your employees' accomplishments, and let them know you're happy for them.
75. Grant time off when it's really necessary
76. Be flexible. Company policy may state that there's absolutely no coming in late under any circumstances, but what would you do if an employee has to take a sick child to the hospital before coming in to work?
77. Be consistent. Set and follow certain ground rules. I know this seems in direct contrast to the preceding point, but a good boss should know when to draw the line and when to be a little lenient.
78. Know at least a little bit about your employees' personal lives, their families, and their passions and pet peeves.
79. Find out why employees behave out of character; poor work may be a result of a personal crisis that is weighing on his/her mind. Unhappiness and stress hamper productivity.
80. Offer support, both moral and otherwise, in times of personal difficulties.
81. Be self-sufficient; make your own coffee and get your own doughnuts, write a few of your own letters - and make your employees feel you're one among them. In other words, don't expect to be waited on hand and foot by your secretary.
82. Accept suggestions and ideas that you know are good, and proffer praise and credit where they're due.
83. Encourage personal and occupational growth. Support your employees' decision to pursue a higher education.
84. Acknowledge and respect their goals, even if you cannot nurture them.
85. Recognize strengths and weaknesses, and assign responsibilities accordingly.
86. Lead by example; don't expect your employees to do things you wouldn't do yourself. A boss who rolls up his sleeves and pitches in to even muck the stables rates high on the popularity scale.
87. Know your subordinates' jobs well. You don't want to be caught with your pants down when called to step in and complete any task.
88. Provide fair reviews and performance appraisals. Don't let personal prejudices come in the way of professional assessments.
89. Listen, really listen to your employees when they offer suggestions and opinions. Avoid multi-tasking in such situations, it gives the impression that you are not really interested in what the other person has to say.
90. Defend your employees when they are in the firing line from other departments or sections.
91. Be transparent in your decision-making process; tell them why and how you reached certain conclusions.
92. Apologize with good grace when you know you have treated an employee unfairly.
93. Make it up to an employee when you have sometimes gone overboard with your criticism.
94. Seek your employees' opinion before introducing any changes that significantly affect them. People don't take too kindly to sudden changes that throw their routines out of gear.
95. Get regular feedback on your performance and employees' satisfaction.
96. Act on the feedback received; don't use the bundle of paper to line your desk.
97. Make your employees believe you really care about them, and are not just using them as means to an end.
98. Support their career moves, even if it means you end up losing a valuable employee. You never know when the same person will turn up on your doorstep later. The best boss I have heard about is the one who removed his tie and put it around his employee's neck when the latter had a job interview at another company.
99. Surprise your employees with small, unexpected treats, like allowing them to leave an hour early on Friday evening, or allowing them to bring their family to work on a slow day.
100. If you are a woman with men working as your subordinates, understand that the male ego is very fragile, and act accordingly. You don't have to be subservient, just use your common sense and discretion when using a firm hand to deal with male employees.

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